7.0646 Principia Cybernetica Information Server (1/228)

Thu, 5 May 1994 23:58:48 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 7, No. 0646. Thursday, 5 May 1994.

Date: Thu, 5 May 94 17:53:15 +0200
From: fheyligh@vnet3.vub.ac.be (Francis Heylighen)
Subject: Announcing Principia Cybernetica Information Server

Please spread this announcement to related mailing lists/newsgroups...

Announcing the Principia Cybernetica Information Server

The Principia Cybernetica Project (PCP) aims at the computer-supported
collaborative development of an evolutionary-systemic world view. Put more
simply, it tries to tackle age-old philosophical questions with the help of
the most recent cybernetic theories and technologies.

Principia Cybernetica has developed an elaborate information server
reachable by everybody on the Internet: directly through World-Wide Web
(WWW) and anonymous FTP, indirectly through email and Gopher (see
further). The server contains over 600 hypermedia documents, plus lots of
traditional papers, reports, etc, and is regularly updated. It provides:

* general information about the project
* extensive information on Cybernetics and Systems Theory (glossary,
bibliographies, societies, journals, ...)
* information on related topics, including evolution, self-organization,
complexity, cognition, philosophy, epistemology, ethics, transdisciplinary
integration of knowledge, cyberspace and memetics.
* lots of pointers to related servers on the Internet
* definitions of fundamental concepts and principles linked by semantic
* a first attempt to weave all these ideas into an integrated philosophy

For facilitating quick retrieval, the server has a Boolean searchable
index, a hypermedia "clickable map", an extensive table of contents and
other overview documents. It also allows users to add their own comments to
the served information.

Introduction to Principia Cybernetica

PCP is about Philosophy. Philosophy intends to answer questions such as:
Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going? What is knowledge? What
is truth? What are good and evil? What is the meaning of life?

Every time has its own approach to these eternal philosophical questions,
deriving from its knowledge and technology. We hold that in our time, the
age of information, it are systems theory and cybernetics, as the general
sciences of organization and communication, that can provide the basis for
contemporary philosophy. Therefore, our philosophical system is derived
from, and further develops, the basic principles of cybernetics.

Moreover, we start from the thesis that systems at all levels have been
constructed by evolution, which we see as a continuing process of
self-organization, based on variation and natural selection of the
"fittest" configurations. Evolution continuously creates complexity and
makes systems more adaptive by giving them better control over their
environments. We consider the emergence of a new level of complexity as
the quantum of evolution, and call it a "metasystem transition".

As cybernetic theory informs our philosophy, so cybernetic technology lets
us do things that philosophers of other times could only dream of. Using
computer technology, we develop a large philosophical text from many nodes
which are linked together with different relationships. Readers can
navigate among the many concepts, guided by their individual understanding
and interests. Disparate material can be integrated together while being
written and read by collaborators from all around the world.

We hold that PCP is more than an interesting experiment, and that there is
an acute need for an approach similar to PCP. The ongoing explosion and
fragmentation of knowledge demands a renewed effort at integration. This
has always been the dream of the systems theorists; all they lacked was the
appropriate technology to attack the complexity of the task.

This effort has been ongoing since 1989, and has recently entered a stage
of real implementation. Of course, the task is enormous, and we are still
beginning. If you are really interested in our Project, we invite you to
join our efforts and become a contributor. (more information on
joining the project is available on the server, or by an email request to

Accessing the server through World-Wide Web

The Principia Cybernetica server is reachable at the World-Wide Web
address (URL):


If you don't know how to use this address, read the following introduction
to World-Wide Web (WWW):

WWW allows you to fetch documents, containing hypertext links to other,
related documents, which may reside in different parts of the world. By
selecting one of the links, you automatically fetch the linked documents.
In that way you can navigate through a world-wide network of interconnected
documents, without having to type in any commands. WWW also offers
multimedia support on the appropriate platforms: hypertexts can contain
color images, sounds and even animations. WWW is an extension to, and
integration of, other services on the global Internet, such as telnet,
newsgroups, ftp, gopher and WAIS. WWW combines extreme power (it does
everything the other systems do and more), with maximal simplicity and ease
of use.

WWW software is freely available for all major computer platforms, and
only requires an Internet connection. More information about WWW can be
found by anonymous ftp to info.cern.ch, (directory: /pub/www/doc for "paper
copies" of articles on WWW). An even better introduction can be got by
directly logging in to the Web, using telnet to one of the following hosts
(in mainframe systems, the command is normally "telnet " followed by one of
the following addresses or IP numbers):

info.cern.ch : (IP number

ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu (Full screen browser, requires a vt100 terminal. Log
in as www.)

Free WWW-software ("browsers") can be found by anonymous ftp at the
following places:

ftp.ncsa.uiuc.edu, in directory /Mosaic, /Mac/Mosaic, or /PC/Mosaic:
Mosaic multimedia browser for X-Windows, Mac and MS Windows.
fatty.law.cornell.edu, in directory /pub/LII/cello:Browser for Microsoft
info.cern.ch, in directory /pub/www/bin: Several browsers (Mac, NeXT,

Once you are connected to WWW, the PCP Web can be found on the
geographical list of all WWW-servers under "Europe: Belgium", or on the
above WWW-address ("URL").

General info about WWW can be found at the following addresses:


Accessing the server by email

People who are not directly connected to the Internet, yet who can use
email (e.g. through Bitnet or CompuServe) can still get WWW-files by
sending a message to the email address: test-list@info.cern.ch (if this
doesn't work, try listserv@info.cern.ch, or send a "HELP" command line).
The message should consist of one or more lines, each containing the
command "SEND " followed by the WWW-address (URL) of a desired document.
E.g. for the PCP server home page a command line would read:

SEND http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/

This will return the hypertext document (text-only), with links numbered.
A separate list at the end gives the document-addresses of the linked
documents, which can then be requested by a subsequent message. In this way
you can navigate through the web, albeit only at mail speed.

It is possible to search for documents in PCP web by using the address:
http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/Index.ind?search+string where 'search+string'
stands for the keyword(s) you are looking for (with spaces " " replaced by
"+" signs). E.g.

SEND http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/Index.ind?systems+theory

will retrieve the list of all documents that have 'systems theory' in
their title.

Accessing the server by FTP

If you have an Internet connection, but WWW is not yet installed, you can
also retrieve files on PCP by anonymous FTP at host is1.vub.ac.be, in
directory /pub/projects/Principia_Cybernetica (this will not allow you to
use the WWW hypermedia features, though).

On mainframes or UNIX computers you would normally connect to the host by

ftp is1.vub.ac.be

When you are asked for your login, type:


Enter your email address as password. Then change directories ("cd"
command) by typing:

cd /pub/projects/Principia_Cybernetica

To show the available files and directories, type:


If necessary, change directories again. If you have made your choice,
transfer the chosen file to your computer, by typing "get " followed by the
filename, e.g.:

get Workbook.txt

When you have the file(s) you want, type:


In case of doubt or difficulty, consult your system manager.

Accessing the server by Gopher

The PCP ftp server (no hypertext) can also be reached through the gopher
protocol, via the host:


(port 70)

(on mainframes/UNIX the command would be "gopher wachau.ai.univie.ac.at").
Select from the gopher menu ":Anonymous FTP-archives", then "Artificial
Intelligence Archives", and finally "BEL: Principia Cybernetica project".

Dr. Francis Heylighen Systems Researcher
PO, Free University of Brussels, Pleinlaan 2, B -1050 Brussels, Belgium
Phone:+32-2-6412525;Fax:+32-2-6412489 **from May '94:change 641 to 629!
Email:fheyligh@vnet3.vub.ac.be; WWW: http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/HEYL.html